Could the mitochondria be the next frontier in IBD?
The mitochondria are one of the most magnificent structures of the cell. They are the “powerhouses” or the “lungs” of the cell turning the food we eat and the oxygen we breathe into a high energy substrate called ATP. There is something funny about mitochondria, however, and that is that they seem to be more independent than other organelles. They have their own DNA, and they can replicate on their own. It’s almost as if they are an alien species living inside of us. Well, they might be. It’s hypothesized that they once were bacteria 2-3 billion years ago, and “accidentally,” entered cells that resembled our own. There they synergized and merged becoming one with their hosts.
We know that IBD is most likely a bacterial disease – where the immune system overreacts to both normal and harmful bacteria – resulting in tissue damage. But what if it was the mitochondria too? What if the immune system has trouble distinguishing between mitochondrial DNA and harmful bacterial DNA? What if the mitochondria are the source driving the inflammation? New research from the University of Edinburgh found high levels of mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) in the stool, mitochondrial damage, and demonstrated that mtDNA is released during active IBD flares.